Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
Tax season is approaching quickly, and over the next couple of months, individuals and businesses across the country will be filing their tax paperwork with the IRS. Unfortunately, this also means it’s prime season for anyone looking to steal personal information or swindle people out of their tax refunds.
Tax scams for the purposes of identity theft have been common for decades, but as technology evolves, so do the scams. Taxpayers – and the IRS itself – lose millions of dollars every year to these schemes, so it’s important to understand what’s out there.
According to the IRS, here are a few insidious tax identity theft scams that have been gaining popularity among fraudsters.
Common Tax Scams
IRS phone scams. While IRS phone scams are a year-round threat, they will likely amp up through now through deadline day. The key to avoiding being hit by these scams, know that the IRS does not make threatening phone calls nor do they request wire transfers over the phone. If someone calls saying they are from the IRS, hang up the phone and don’t call back if they leave a voicemail.
TurboTax phishing emails. With more people using DIY tax software like TurboTax, con artists are now sending phishing emails with official looking logos to request personal information from taxpayers. These con artists are looking for you to part with social security number and other key details, or trying to infect your computer with malware. If you receive a seemingly suspicious email, assume it is, don’t click on any links and delete it.
Fake tax refund scams. Paperless e-filing and online tax software has actually made it easier for this type of scam to proliferate. Identity thieves will steal social security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns and get a large tax refund early in the season. Guard your social security number and online identity fiercely.
Protecting Yourself from Tax Identity Theft
If you want to reduce your risk of becoming the next victim of tax identity theft, here are a few things you may want to do as you’re filing your taxes.
File as early as possible to claim your refund. As soon as you have all the necessary tax documents to file your return, do so. Filing early and claiming your refund means that any fraudster trying to use your Social Security number will be flagged by the IRS.
Attend a Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week educational event. In honor of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week (Jan. 29 to Feb. 2), the Federal Trade Commission is hosting a series of free webinars and Twitter chats to help you stay safe. Special sessions will be provided for consumers, veterans, and small businesses.
Keep an eye on your accounts and public records. Once you’ve filed your taxes, be sure to keep an eye on your financial accounts and other public data. Look for the signs of identity theft, such as suspicious activity or new accounts opened in your name.
Think you’ve fallen for an IRS tax scam? Report it to the government at identitytheft.gov.